#AtTheCliffFace: Musings of a Romance Academic

This month, PHS editor Ali Williams is talking about discovering the wonders of having a deadline.

For as long as I've been a part of the romance community, I've heard about the perils of deadline. People tearing their hair out and complaining about the difficulties of meeting their deadlines.

And I thought I'd be the same.

Ever since I've started my PhD, I've been splitting my time between working on the two aspects - writing a proposal for the 50 thousand word thesis that I'm going to write, and planning the novel that I'll also get to write.

After having gone full out on the proposal research (I am now partially conversant in both narratology and Franco Moretti's theories of Distant Readings), my creative writing supervisor asked to see some actual words, and so I got stuck in.

It turns out that having deadline by which I needed to send her a chunk of fiction actually really galvanised me. I sat down and wrote solidly for a couple of hours. And then after our meeting, I sat down and wrote a load more.

So what have I actually learned from this?

1) I'm a pantser through and through. I thought that sitting down and planning out my novel was the way to go; it's worked as a general approach for me in the past, and nothing indicated that this time would be any different.

And then my heroine surprised me with a secret baby.

Looking back on it now, it makes perfect sense. Her motivation for being determined to hold onto the family business wasn't really working, and it fits within the sub-genre of category romance that I'm focussed on. But it was a bit of a shock! Since then, the setting has changed, as has my hero's motivation and I've essentially thrown everything I thought I knew out of the window, and I'm now just going with it.

2) I can't write this novel listening to songs with lyrics. In fact, it turns out that I can't write this novel at all, unless I'm listening to the entirety of Tchaikovsky's Casse-Noisette Suite (commonly known as The Nutcracker ballet). I've often listened to general pop music whilst writing before, but no longer...though this may have something to do with the fact that it's set in a theatre...

3) Writing rejuvenates me. I'm finding it so soothing to just pop my headphones in, let Tchaikovsky wash over me and give myself over to the writing. I'm still editing as I go along a little too much, but I'm getting better at it, and the words are coming more and more. And as I write, I find out more about myself too.

I love this project, and I'm so so pleased that I decided to make creative writing part of my PhD project - even if I am having to adjust to the fact that I'm writing a secret baby romance!

How do you cope with deadlines? Share your advice and tips with Ali by using the #AtTheCliffFace hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Ali is speaking about carving out a space for creativity within your life at the two day Wildfire Women Conference in Brighton, UK in September. It's a weekend full of debate and conversation, where writers, actresses, researchers, coaches and businesswomen are coming together to talk about how to channel creative inspiration into business. If you're interested in attending, the conference currently has an early bird conference deal: £50 for both days! For more information, check out Eventbrite.

For more information about her and her writing project, check out her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

#AliWIlliams #PhD #PopularRomanceStudies #AtTheCliffFace #writing #Writing #TheNutcracker #Tchaikovsky #SecretBaby #Pantser #Plotter #Music #WildfireWomen #Brighton #CasseNoisetteSuite #Deadlines

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